Simple days, complex world…

The days pass quickly in a routine that is pretty pleasant truth be told.  I’m not missing traveling, not missing even leaving the house.  I see friends and family enough via zoom, and with all the remote lectures I’m giving, I feel as though I’ve just attended the world’s largest weaving conference.  Each day I bounce around to some part of the country, and each lecture there are old friends and familiar faces in those tiny boxes on the screen.  I’ve been corresponding with someone in MO, who was supposed to take a workshop with me in August in Kansas, but appeared in a lecture in western MA.  We weavers get around…

Having my daughter here, working with her, developing new content, shooting a new video every Friday for my YouTube site The Weaver Sews.  It has kept us busy.  The biggest challenges are keeping the animals quiet, and hoping the landscape people don’t come through in the middle of filming the way they did last Wednesday in the middle of a class I was teaching remotely.  Those leaf blowers right outside the garage doors were pretty noisy.

So the election in the US is Tuesday.  I don’t hold hope that things will be resolved by Tuesday night.  I don’t hold hope that things will be resolved for a very long time, no matter who is declared the winner.  I’m sad for the polarization, I’m sad for the divisive language used by both sides, I wish we could all get along and move forward.  We are in the middle of a couple of international crises and I’m a firm supporter of science (having a daughter with a science degree means I can’t even cook without a science perspective thrown into the recipe), and no matter the results, I hope moving forward that we as a nation can come together to solve some of these major issues.  I’ve just heard of another weaver who lost their entire studio to one of the fires in Oregon.  She took a workshop with me just in March of this year, my last stint before the world shut down.  I sent her digital files of everything we could piece together that she lost from my workshop, but that doesn’t replace yarn, samples, looms, weaving equipment, spinning wheels, and a life time of knowledge in physical form.  My friends in California, Oregon, Washington, as well as Louisiana have taken the brunt of this year’s climate disasters.  I wish the world had a plan moving forward.  For me, I voted within 24 hours of receiving my mail in ballot (only mail-in voting in NJ this year because of the pandemic), so on Tuesday night, I’ll be teaching remotely for a guild in Toronto.  I can only do my best to keep moving forward, being kind, paying attention to the science, fighting for equality for all, and embracing my countrymen no matter what and who they are passionate about.

Since  Tuesday night’s lecture is on Doup Leno, a technique I wrote about a couple years ago for Heddlecraft Magazine, (January/February 2019), I needed to have something set up for a live demo.  The warp that I had been using was mostly used up.  So I rewarped this week, with a couple of handdyed skeins of cashmere I had sitting around, one a dark and the other a variegated turquoise.  The goal is a couple of scarves, the leno structure will keep them lacy, but the structure will hold together.

That said, I’ve been rather busy with my simple days.  Simple means I can fill my days up with juggling 40 things at once, because I can’t imagine a day when 40 things aren’t happening simultaneously!  

I’ve been working for the last couple of weeks on a new project.  The last two vests I made both had welt pockets.  It has been on my to do eventually list for a couple of years.  I finally sat down, designed a diagonal entry welt pocket and then once I did a few of them, drew illustrations and wrote up the 12 page directions.

Now you can actually purchase the Welt Pocket Variation as a download.  The download contains the 12 page heavily illustrated directions, the two pattern pieces full size for the welt and pocket, and replacement pages for the 100 jacket, 200 jacket and 800 vest.  By substituting the pages in the pattern digital files, you’ll see where the pocket goes.  So if you’ve purchased the 100, 200 or 800 vest, you might enjoy this variation.  Of course it will work for any jacket or vest you make from anyone’s patterns, you’ll just have to figure out where to position it.

The second vest I finished is the one I’ve been using for demonstrations during my last few YouTube videos.  The fabric was a remnant I bought somewhere, can’t remember, but it was a gorgeous sleezy Chanel type tweed, really challenging to work with, like your worst case handwoven.  My handwoven fabrics aren’t nearly as challenging!  I made up the 200 jacket but left off the sleeves, bringing the lining to the edge of the armhole.  With the shawl collar and welt pockets, it is a much different look than my other vests.  

I realized of course that I haven’t updated my gallery on the website with the last couple of pieces I’ve made, the Summer Rain Top, and of course the leopard trimmed and lined Confetti vest shown above.  It is much more important to be timely in those updates because my daughter references those details and images when she creates the show notes for each video I do.  We took one of our guest rooms, since we aren’t getting a lot of guests (none actually) and turned it into a temporary photo studio.  So I popped the Summer Rain top onto the dressform, and perched it on top of the table to take a quick shot of the top.  The free draft for the fabric for this top, using Silk City Fibers is available here.  The pattern is a combination of my 1000 Swing Dress, very modified to take out the “swing”, and the armhole and sleeve from my 200 Jacket.

Meanwhile, now that all my looms are full, I filled them up for the HGA remote studio tour the beginning of October, I need to start clearing looms because I’m getting more ideas of stuff I want to weave.  So I cleared one of the table looms first.  This one had a test for Silk City Fibers, their Supermerino yarn, sett in an 8 dent reed, plain weave, to simulate what one would experience with a rigid heddle loom set up.  One was a single end in an 8 dent reed, single weft, spaced a little far apart for my taste, but that was the point of the test.  I gave that one to Silk City and kept this one, which is two ends together in an 8 dent reed with a doubled weft (I used a double boat shuttle for that scarf).  Supermerino is a superwash yarn.  It doesn’t say that in the description, but it doesn’t full at all when washed.  The result is actually quite soft and lovely, and I’m glad they let me keep one of the scarves.  I suspect I’ll be venturing outside a bit this winter, if only to walk the property and pick up dog debris, and I think this will be quite warm.

I did a round robin sort of day earlier in the week, I wove a yard of two on each of the other floor looms, just to get them moving forward.  I can probably just sit and weave and finish off a couple of them in a day or two.  To have time to just sit and weave is such a gift.  And that means I’ll have yardage to sew.  And empty looms to rewarp…

There is this one, which has been on the loom for way too long.  The yarn is Noro Taiyo Lace, a pain to work with but really beautiful in its gradient effect as the weft.  4 shaft, warp is vintage Harrisville singles Shetland wool and vintage Maypole Nehalem worsted.  I’ve probably got less than two yards to go…

This is another test for Silk City Fibers, their new Cotton Bambu yarn mixed with their Chenille Tapestry yarn.  I modified an 8 shaft shadow weave draft, it is a bit slow to weave because of the two shuttle complicated repeat but it is moving along nicely.  

And this one is also using Silk City Fibers, their new Nile cotton tape mixed with Skinny Majesty variegated.  The weft is their Wool Crepe.  I can’t wait to weave off this fabric, it is weaving like butter and I want to make swing dress out of it. Over a black turtleneck, this could be fun for winter, something new to wear, even though I don’t go anywhere and only dress for the upper third of my body for remote Zoom meetings.  And for the videos, I get to dress up, put on makeup and look remotely professional, but everything has to be 2-piece to support the remote microphone pack clipped into my waistband.

Days are cooler now, we have finally had frost in NJ.  I cuddle up with the gas stove in the living room, and a 1000 piece puzzle and some wine in the evenings, or watch late night political satire on the TV with my daughter.  We need to keep laughing, we need to surround ourselves with art, humor and good food and drink.  And of course animals, there is a cat asleep on my lap as I type, with one paw draped over my typing hand.  And yarn and good books.  I have all of that, and new flannel sheets coming this week from LLBean.  My daughter stole my other set.  Life is OK for now in my small neck of the world.  I quietly keep making up new stuff, and keep an eye out for important things to know about.  

See you all on the other side of this election, stay safe, wear a mask, and don’t forget to vote…

It lives…

Most of the handweaving community by now is aware of the F & W Media debacle over the past few months, F & W Media owned just about every craft, art, farming, woodworking, and a slew of other publications in the country, with the exception of Taunton Press, still valiantly publishing up there in CT (They publish Threads Magazine).  F & W had been on an acquisition frenzy over the past few years, and had acquired Interweave Press, publisher of Handwoven Magazine, among other important fiber publications in knitting and spinning.  F & W declared bankruptcy early this past spring.  All of use who were owed royalties will never see them paid.  More importantly, the fear in the fiber community of our print institutions’ survival was a complete unknown.

In June, a “fire sale” as the legal rep I talked to handling the whole affair called it, (I was of course one of the people who will never get paid royalties due from last spring) was held, I think somewhere in Delaware.  I sat glued to my Google search engine for a week to find out what happened.  The F & W Craft Division, was successfully bid on by a company…

Macanta Investments, a private-investment partnership for Terence O’Toole and his family, put up $2.85 million for F+W’s crafts group that includes a network of 10 knitting, sewing and needlework magazines, along with nine quilting titles.

O’Toole is a managing partner of Tinicum Inc., an investment firm that bought a majority interest of F+W in 2014.

This mediapost article has a few more details, but F & W Craft Division including Interweave’s Handwoven Magazine will live on assuming the goal of this acquisition was to keep publishing.  The book division was sold just prior to the auction to Penquin Books, so hopefully it is in good hands.  A quick perusal of the Interweave Press website shows all the books gone, but digital content is still available for sale and is being heavily promoted.  These would include my five webinar series on Sewing with Handwovens.  

There is a lot of buzz on social media that makes me sort of sad.  Full disclosure, I was the Features Editor for Handwoven Magazine from about 2002 to around 2007, writing in every issue for 35 issues straight.  Madelyn van der Hoogt was my editor and I enjoyed every minute I spent under her careful and watchful eye.  I’d like to say she was responsible for my career as a journalist, as I’ve now written more than 100 articles in various publications and have even branched into video.  

But it all started at Handwoven Magazine.  The buzz on social media complains that the  magazine isn’t what it used to be, that the projects are mostly for rigid heddle weavers, that there isn’t a lot of content, that it is very thin, and a discussion ensues about cancelling subscriptions in protest, or stopping advertising, because, well no one reads the magazine anymore.  In fact I stopped writing for them because of the reduced rate of author compensation.  That said, Handwoven Magazine has been around for 40 years.  How do I know this?  An advance copy of the September/October issue is sitting on my desk because I have an article in it.  

There has been no other weaving publication that has hung in for so long and provided so much content as Handwoven Magazine.  I have every issue on my shelf and it is an incredible wealth of knowledge.  Many of the issues are available digitally, so they don’t take up shelf space, but I’m a paper kind of gal.  My art and weaving library is huge, because I’m a writer and a researcher and a creative person and well, there is nothing like a spread of a half dozen reference materials across my floor or cutting table as I compare content for an article.  I did a quick perusal of this issue, their 40th anniversary, Issue XXXX number 4.  (Yeah I know that the Roman Numeral for 40 is XL which is also a size, and XXXX reads better!)

The issue is thin.  Publishing print isn’t what it use to be.  My favorite current weaving magazine is of course Heddlecraft, published by Robyn Spady, but that publication is digital only with no advertising.  It is theme specific, provides extensive drafts, and has some lovely features columns.  But I doggedly continue to subscribe to Handwoven because it still provides inspiration, articles, and advertising, so I’m on top of what’s new, who is selling what, who’s who and who is writing what, and I will often use one of their dishtowel drafts for my annual dishtowel warp.  This issue is about remembering.  It has a look back over the six editors of Handwoven Magazine, and comments from them.  It has projects that reference many of those editors.  It has a sweet article from Sherrie Miller, whom I adore, about the Weaving Hall of Fame, a look back over those who have contributed most to the craft.  I get a mention at the end, which I totally did not expect.  I have an article on Weaving a Memory.  It is a technique I’ve taught in the past, and have a full monograph available for more content. (The link is for the digital version, there is also a bound paper version available.)

And there are projects, one rigid heddle, one for a pin loom, and plenty for four shaft looms and one for an eight shaft.  The ads are colorful and remind us of who is still out there selling supplies to handweavers.  There is a great look back over the 50 year career of Schacht Looms.  And a wonderful side bar about the decision to start offering projects at Handwoven Magazine, and why.  I never knew that part of the story. And Tom Knisely has a great article on weaving borders.  So here’s the thing.  There aren’t many print publications left.  Heddlecraft is digital only, and Weavers Craft will publish their last issue, #32 this year.  They also had no advertising.  You can still get back issues of Weavers Magazine (44 in total, have them all) and Prairie Wool Companion (16 in total, have many of them, still looking)  and the Weavers Journal (I’m still collecting them as well).  There is VAV magazine, a Swedish publication, really wonderful, which has been translated into English since 2006.  You can get back copies of that magazine from The Loom Room.  And so we have Handwoven Magazine.  It is important for the handweaving community to rally around and support what we have left, because even though you can find anything you want to know on youtube, there is something to still be revered and respected about holding the latest issue of anything.  I get very few magazines anymore.  I get this one. And of course, Threads.

And since I have every issue, I still use them for reference.  Especially my own articles.  Especially the Color Forecast.  I have almost all of the original content that was photographed for the magazine, the color chip cards and the yarn wraps.  I use them all the time for instant color and inspiration.  I just leafed through my binder and randomly picked the palette for Jan/Feb 2004 issue, called Retro, part of the Fall 2004-5 forecast.

And I gathered all of the yarns I had on all of my shelves, leftover bits in bins, hand dyed skeins, and wound a scarf warp in four parts…  The last part was the supplemental ribbons.

I spent yesterday threading this baby, and this afternoon I’m going to get it beamed, mostly because I don’t want 14 yards of warp chains lying around the floor to tempt my animals.  Hahahahah!

I often thought that it would be fun for Interweave Press to put together a digital collection of all of the forecasts I wrote, there are some pretty inspiring palettes.  I would know since I researched and wrote them!

I’m heading off to renew the Handwoven Subscription for our weaving guild.  I’m the treasurer so I get to write the checks.  Keep those issues coming…

Stay tuned…

Uh Oh, empty looms again…

Actually, in spite of an epidemic of empty looms again, this was a fantastic week so far.  Like the planets aligned…  You know when you work on something really really hard, and finally, finally it comes to fruition?  I had a whole bunch of things finish up and birth themselves right into the stratosphere in the last 48 hours.

First off, last October I mentioned that I had shot a whole string of videos for Threads Magazine for their Insider subscription service.  Actually it is a great service, $19.95 a year for unlimited viewing of their archive of videos on sewing and fit related topics.  My group will slowly be added that archive over the next few months, but the first one was released yesterday.  I watched it today and it was really spot on.  I did a good job.  I covered everything that needed to be said about the topic and the editing was smooth and clean.  This video shows how to cut and piece bias strips.  You can subscribe to Insider and view it here.  Thank you Threads!

Also released yesterday was the latest issue of Heddlecraft Magazine.  Many of you know how hard I worked over the last few months on this 30 page article.  I felt like I had done a Master’s Thesis…  This lengthy article is on a topic near and dear to my heart, one I explored in my early days of craft fairs back in the 1980’s, called Doup Leno.  It is a way of crossing threads back and forth to create a loom controlled lace fabric.  Heddlecraft Magazine is available in digital format only.  You can subscribe here

I needed to get an image of the piece I am submitting for the summer faculty exhibit Making Matters: Fresh Perspectives in Fine Craft at Peters Valley, by the weekend.  The work doesn’t have to be finished by then, but you can’t take a photo of that which does not exist.  So my 36″ 8 shaft Tools of the Trade loom is now empty and the fabric is drying…  This is a mixed warp in a combination weave with supplemental warps, some of it is hand dyed, and the yarns are mostly cotton and rayon.  The weft is 3 ply worsted wool from my stash.  

My new rule in the house, with so many looms, is that once a loom has been cleared, whoever cleared it has to oil/wax it (I use Howard’s Feed and Wax) and tighten all the bolts and screws.  My loom looks so happy and refreshed…

Also due this week is a scarf which I promised to donate to The Shakespeare Theatre of NJ for their Annual Gala silent auction.  I adore this organization and gave them one for their fundraiser last year, and I’ll be attending the gala this April and am pleased to donate another scarf.  Which meant I had to weave off all five.  Which means another loom is empty.  But it is also very happy because it has been cleaned and waxed and all the bolts and screws have been tightened.  It is looking fresh and cheery for another warp. (There are only four scarves in the photo because I made it to the post office with five minutes to spare, the fifth one is on its way to The Shakespeare Theatre.)

And last night, I sat by the fire and finished a lovely cable knit vest, I had been worried I wouldn’t have enough yarn, but I knit as fast as I could and turns out I beat the yarn fairies…  This vest is Berroco Artisan Merino and Silk.  I picked up a half dozen skeins last fall at Sievers, on sale because the yarn is discontinued.  The yarn is butter smooth and so pretty.  The vest is one I’ve made before.  It is a Drops Design, 123-10 waistcoat.  It is actually a free pattern from Garn Studio.  I started this vest last fall, sometime after I taught at Sievers, so again, it is funny that I finished it last night as well.  It is still drying on top of the washer.

And about 10 days ago, my lovely daughter went on a mission to pick up yet another loom.  They are finding us.  I don’t know why.  If you Google Tools of the Trade Looms, my name comes up.  Probably because between my daughter and I, we now own 10.  I bought my first one back in 1978.  I mention them a lot in my blogs.  They aren’t made anymore, but it is a solid versatile jack type loom that has stood the test of time, solid rock maple, unless you find one in cherry, and you can’t kill them.  I sent my daughter down to Bedminster NJ to pick up a lovely 8 shaft 25″ wide table loom, a great teaching loom and perfect for workshops.  She (the loom,  not my daughter) joins two other looms that size, one a four shaft and the other a fraternal twin in cherry.  I had to do some tweaking, restore some of the parts, and I’m about to add heddles to the back four shafts, but it looks in good working order and it seems happy with the crew.  Incidently, I have received word on two other Tools of the Trade looms that are needing homes and my daughter is all over it.  I do not know where these looms will all fit, it is clear that we are building inventory to open some kind of school or teaching venue, but that’s far down the road and I can’t even fathom that right now.  I’m happy meeting my deadlines.  FYI, between us right now we own 29 shaft looms. 15 Structos three of which are 8 shaft, two Leclerc 10″ 4 shaft looms, a 12 shaft Leclerc Dorothy, a folding Ashford Table Loom, 8 shafts, and of course, the 10 Tools of the Trade Looms. We win…

Stay tuned…

Going Home…

And I’m home.  It has been a challenging, wonderful, inspirational four months, I’ve met so many wonderful people, saw some incredible things, reconnected with old friends, taught some pretty terrific students, and the support along the way has been absolutely critical.  A huge thank you to all who put me up, put up with me, who picked me up at airports and restaurants, who made my life manageable, and who cheered me on from the sidelines.  It is all a fitting end to a well done year.

My last stop was Wisconsin Handweavers, a quick in and out, direct flight to Milwaukee, and though my plane was a couple hours delayed getting in, we still had time to hit the Milwaukee Art Museum to see what treasures we could find.  I adore art museums, I’ve been able to see so many this year, not just on the road.  The week before I left my daughter and I spent a Saturday at the Newark Museum, and saw the Kimono as Fashion exhibit.  The entire museum has been updated, renovated, and though I worked in it teaching in the arts workshop for many years, I didn’t recognize much.  It is fresh and interesting, with exciting mini collections from all over the world.  The Kimono exhibit was worth the trip just by itself.

So my lovely hostess Paula took me to the Milwaukee Art Museum, the one with the famous gull wings that open to the sun. 

I’ve been there a few times, but this museum has also been renovated, it was fresh, with wonderful collections and the current exhibit was really unusual.  The website description says it all

Serious Play: Design in Midcentury America explores the projects of over 40 designers who advocated for playfulness and whimsy within their creations for corporations, domestic interiors, and children. The exhibition presents play as a serious form of inspiration, experimentation, and problem solving. In midcentury America, such playful design occurred against the backdrop of a booming consumer market and as a counterbalance to Cold War–era anxiety. Furniture, toys, textiles, films, posters, ceramics are among the objects featured.

It was an eclectic collection of stuff from the middle of the last century, a lot of Eames designs, and curiously, or sadly, I’m not sure which, I found myself wandering around thinking, “We had that in our kitchen growing up, or I played with that, or I remember that!”  It was very eerie to see your childhood in a museum.  That said, there were treasures to be found and I came around a corner and saw this…

Wow, just wow.  This is a rug designed for ALCOA, Aluminum Company of America, woven by Marianne Strengell in 1957 for an ad showing the new aluminum fibers.  A copy of the ad was also featured.  I have used metallic fibers throughout my weaving career, and I haven’t ever given them a thought, that prior to 1957, they were not a thing.  This was a gorgeous textile, beautifully preserved, and worth the trip to the museum.

Paula and I wandered through the permanent collections.  I came across this Georgia O’Keeffe I had never seen before.

And I saw a few works by Gabrielle Münter, a German artist that has only recently come across my radar, there are a couple of her works in the Neue Gallerie of German and Austrian Art in NYC.  This was painted in 1912.

And there is an exhibit of Haitian Art, and I fell in love with this painting, which I took a picture of and made it my wallpaper on my computer.  It is by Jasmin Joseph and was painted in 1958.

And then I did a two day workshop.  I will say that hands down this was the best workshop space ever provided by a guild, at least for this particular workshop.  I had four tables to lay out my newly numbered and ordered patterns and though there were a couple minors errors, this all went swimmingly well.  So thank you to all who complained over the last year about how tough it was to keep everything straight, I seemed to have solved all the problems in one fell swoop!  This is a great two day workshop for a guild, called Custom Fit and Fabulous, and we even had time to explore sewing with handwoven fabric and things you need to know to sew the garments together.

Saturday I gave a lecture on Color and Inspiration to the main guild, and there must have been 100 people in the audience.  I even had beloved friends come down from Washington Island, and there were a number of my Sievers students as well.  I got a photo of Crystal, LuAnn (in a short sleeve version of a Daryl Jacket) and Cindy, all wearing stuff they made in my class or as a result of my class.

One of the cool perks of what I do is the interesting people I get to stay with.  Husbands of weavers are just the best.  Paula’s husband was just one of the most interesting people I’ve ever come across, (although the geologist with the succulent collection in Northern California is a pretty close second), Andy has traveled to the most amazing places like Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, places I wouldn’t ever imagine people travel to on purpose, and taken gorgeous photos.  We spent hours pouring over his vast collection of books, not only of photography, but mostly botanical illustrations and illustrators.  We both love a good botanical illustrator, and I told him  about Mindy Lighthipe, who was a former weaver in the 1980’s, and he immediately bought a book she wrote on botanical illustration, Amazon delivered it the next day, and he turned me on to Margaret Mee, whom I had never heard of, but immediately bought the book and it was waiting on my doorstep when I returned.  

And so, my trip home was uneventful except for the 150 MPH tailwind which got me to Newark from MKE in less than an hour and a half.  Gotta love tailwinds…

And that threw me back into instant reality.  Right before I left my daughter did this…

Which has been declared a total loss.  So I’m down a car, which isn’t actually a terrible thing, since I had three after my husband died.  She still can’t afford her own, so at least I have something for her to drive. 

Monday I drove to CT to the annual Threads Magazine Holiday Party, it was great to see everyone, and I was thrilled to have an office party to attend, I’ve worked for myself since 1979, and never had an office holiday party, this is my third one at the magazine and I feel like family.  And I spent some time talking to Pamela Leggett, a fabulous designer, her patterns are mostly for knits,  author and frequent contributor to Threads Magazine, and she gave me some insight to creating digital versions of my patterns.  So I’m mulling that over in my head.  It is far down on the to do list, but it is at least on the list…

The ice maker on the brand new refrigerator failed after the first week, so now that has been replaced. The gas stove people have been here and I’ve put a deposit on replacing my wood stove with a gas one. That should happen towards the end of January once all the permits are in.  I’ve been to the eye doctor and ordered new glasses.  And the towel run is off the loom, washed and ready for hemming.  That’s tomorrow.  And today I started planning my next article, this one for Heddlecraft Magazine.  This one will require a lot of loom sampling…

It never ends, and I wouldn’t have it any other way… stay tuned…